In 1987, Dr. Charles Knapp, newly appointed President of the University of Georgia, declared that UGA needed to develop a “cultural fabric” that could best be realized through major artistic presentations in an appropriate cultural center. From this commitment came a new Performing and Visual Arts Complex on East Campus, which included the Georgia Museum of Art, the School of Music, and the multi-venue Performing Arts Center.

Exterior of the Performing Arts Center
Exterior of the Performing Arts Center

Construction began for the Performing Arts Center in December, 1993, and was completed in late 1995. The Performing Arts Center was designed by Atlanta architects Thompson, Ventulett, Stainback & Associates and the Greenville, South Carolina, firm of Craig, Gaulden Davis. It houses two acoustically perfect concert halls designed by Jaffe Holden Scarbrough Acoustics, Inc., of Norwalk, Connecticut, plus an orchestra rehearsal room, office and dressing room suites, and a spacious three-tiered lobby.

In 1987, Dr. Charles Knapp, newly appointed President of the University of Georgia, declared that UGA needed to develop a “cultural fabric” that could best be realized through major artistic presentations in an appropriate cultural center.

The larger of the two concert halls is Hugh Hodgson Concert Hall, named for the founder of the School of Music. It seats 1,096 patrons comfortably in a festival-style setting, with seats surrounding the stage. Ramsey Concert Hall, named in honor of the late UGA alumnus and benefactor Bernard Ramsey, offers a more intimate setting for solo recitals and chamber music concerts. Its seating capacity is 358 and, like Hodgson Hall, it provides both performers and audiences a superb acoustical setting.

Hugh Hodgson Performance Hall
Interior of the Performing Arts Center

The official opening of the Performing Arts Center was celebrated from April 13 to 19, 1996, with a week-long series of over 30 concerts (all but one featuring Georgia artists), including the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, UGA matriculant Charles Wadsworth with chamber music from the Spoleto Festival USA, and numerous UGA performing groups representing the School of Music and the Departments of Drama and Dance. Yoel Levi, Music Director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, conducted the University Symphony Orchestra and Oratorio Chorus in a performance of the Finale from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, a setting of Schiller’s Ode To Joy. That concert also featured the world premiere of Jubilation, an orchestral composition commissioned by the University of Georgia from composer Ellen Taaffe Zwilich to celebrate the opening. The gala opening concert was presented Saturday, April 13, 1996, by Augusta native and renowned operatic soprano Jessye Norman.

The official opening of the Performing Arts Center was celebrated from April 13 to 19, 1996, with a week-long series of over 30 concerts (all but one featuring Georgia artists).

Several UGA faculty and administrators and community members were intimately involved in planning the Performing Arts Center, helping the Director develop its policies. First among this group was then-Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. William F. Prokasy. Dr. Prokasy has always been a great supporter of the arts on campus, and a patron of all of them. His efforts, along with those of President Knapp, were instrumental in the creation of the Performing Arts Center and the entire Complex. The other members of the original UGA planning committee included Tom Bowen, William Eiland, Richard Graham, Jimmy Morris, Bill Porter, Joe Stell, Mark Wheeler, and Carol Winthrop.

Performing Arts Center at night
Performing Arts Center at night

Since its inception, the Performing Arts Center has enjoyed growth in attendance and widespread support of its presentations from the Athens community, as well as the surrounding counties, the State of Georgia, and the entire Southeast region. In addition to its own presentations, the Performing Arts Center provides the performing home for the faculty and students of the Hugh Hodgson School of Music. The PAC is also home to many departmental graduation and convocation ceremonies each semester and also hosts University-wide lectures and events.

Education and community outreach activities are an important part of the PAC’s mission, providing free recitals, lecture-demonstrations, and master classes by visiting artists for university students, retirement communities, churches, and public schools throughout the state of Georgia. Free pre-concert lectures are presented to the public before many of the PAC’s events each season, and extensive program notes accompany performances so that audiences at the event may be educated as well as entertained.

Each season since 1998, the PAC has recorded many of its concerts for national broadcast on American Public Media’s Performance Today. With a total audience of 1.2 million, Performance Today is the most popular classical music program in the country. The PAC is proud to garner national recognition for Athens and the University on a weekly basis through these national broadcasts.